By Greg Olwell
A ukulele once owned by entertainer George Formby, sold for £28,500 (over $36,000 at the time of the sale), through an auction on June 30, 2017.
The Gibson UB-3 banjo-ukulele, which was sold through Hansons Auctions, came with many items that helped to establish its direct link to Formby, who was once the highest paid entertainer in Britain. In addition to the ukulele itself, the lot also came with an engraved silver platter that was gifted to Formby, plus the original case, several photos, and copies of the George Formby Society magazine.
The whole lot was part of a collection of Terence Wallin, a Formby fan and collector, who wanted all of the items sold together. Wallin’s desire to keep the collection together reportedly stopped the Beatles’ George Harrison from buying the ukulele because the former Beatle was only interested in adding this uke and not the platter, to his collection so the seller held onto the items. (Harrison, another big Formby fan, reportedly owned two of Formby ukes.)
Wallin’s son, also named Terrence, is the seller and said, “I’d like to see the banjolele go to someone who loves George Formby as much as dad did. I grew up listening to George Formby records and dad never missed the George Formby Society meetings at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool. He could play and he’d get up and do a bit of a performance. He didn’t impersonate George Formby but he liked to entertain.”
After Formby’s death, this Gibson was bought by Bill Logan, the first president of the George Formby Society, at an auction shortly after Formby’s death in 1961. Wallin bought it, for £310, in 1972.
Though this ukulele sold for $36,000, another banjo-ukulele once owned by Formby sold for an even great sum. Brian May, the guitarist from the rock band Queen, bought a Formby ukulele for £72,000 in 2008.
Gibson UB-3 Specs
- Serial number 132
- 8-inch rim fitted with a flange resonator
- 16 tension rods
- rosewood fingerboard
- 3 pearloid dot fingerboard inlays
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